GREIG LAIDLAW INTERVIEW
There’s a lot of talk about too much playing or too much training but let’s be clear – players want to play as much good Rugby as they possibly can but they want to play when they’re fresh.
If they feel well and then they play well, ultimately that becomes a better package for players and spectators.
I’ve spoke to a few players about this and we agree, certain unions and clubs are better than others in this regard.
The way forward is this: Players need to work alongside administrators, be that World Rugby, the unions or the clubs.Players are a massive part of the game and they go through the trials and tribulations and their voices need to be heard.
We have more than enough good people and good players in the game that we should be able now to work on this together and ultimately create a better product for fans, clubs and everyone involved in the game.
We can collaborate better together, but the authorities have to talk to the players.
I was tired after last season. I played a lot of Rugby with Gloucester, Scotland and then was fortunate enough to make the trip to New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.
A man wants to play at the highest level but it’s difficult one; on one level that’s great, but with that comes more games and less rest.
But games aren’t always the issue. In my opinion, we’re actually not far from the right number of games played. I actually think it’s the training load that needs to managed across the year.
Take my schedule. I came home from the Lions tour and only had three weeks before I had to move to my new club (Clermont in France) get started in pre-season and obviously wanted to make a good impression.
But let’s face it – there’s no surprise when you see the correlation between injuries and long seasons. I suffered with injuries myself in that time. And of course, there are injuries in our tough game – but it’s more the mental fatigue that affects things. It’s good to get the rest in when you can and feel fresh when you play. As I’ve said, that’s when you get the top performance from a player. It’s nobody’s fault that I only had three weeks off. Ultimately, Clermont signed me, they want to get the use out of me and that’s fine. I got selected for the Lions and I was delighted with that.
But we need to be careful in terms of the global picture. The stresses you come under, both mentally and physically, are an issue.
Clermont have been great to me and look after me as best they can, but you speak to other players and the training load is the big one for the future. Players, clubs and unions need to come together and come up with an optimum player and training load plan. The fresher we are, the better we play and hopefully the more we can win.
I met with some of the top players in the world and with World Rugby about this, after the World Rugby Awards in Monaco last year. It’s getting better, it’s turning a corner. But there’s a long way to go until we get it right.
I’ve spoken at length to my international team-mates about the fact that there’s no Scottish Players Association. There was one years ago, but it wasn’t run properly and fell apart.
Nick de Luca, who I played with, recently raised the lack of mental health supports for players in Scotland, and this is the side of the game that the general public don’t see – the stresses you feel. Some guys are lucky, but for the people that need that support, there has to be an avenue to get help if they need it. A Player’s Association is a little step towards dealing with the big issues.
It’s not just about negotiating match fees and collective bargaining agreements. Many players are well paid. However, it’s about ensuring the future for the guys coming through, the guys in the academy who look up to us, and getting the right supports in place.
I saw the good work done by the Rugby Players Association (RPA) when I played down in England. It’s the stuff away from Rugby – further education, networking, work experience and things that help you in future life. If Scotland set one up – and do it right – it can be a tremendous resource.
Do I think the values of the game are in danger of disappearing due to the money coming in? No, I don’t.
Why? Because of the amount of good people we have in the game today.
Folks talk about more money coming into the game now, but when you think about how tough the game is, we’re probably behind other major professional sports.
But we have to remember we’re in a good sport and I actually think it’s on the way back up again.
For a while there it was all about kicking and size and now it’s steered back towards playing quickly, speed of ball and players trying to find space.
As a scrum-half, that suits me nicely!
The entertainment factor is back to where it should be. Rugby World Cup 2015 was a great spectacle for the game and I’m really looking forward to Japan in 2019.
They always ask me for the best moment in my career. I’m always like “Don’t make me pick one”. Aaaaaaand… then I pick one.
My first cap. The friends I made in the game. I mentioned the values earlier – the game has given me so much, but the people I’ve met that will be friends for life is so important.
But, yeah, The Lions selection has to get the nod.
As a young boy growing up in Scotland, you dream about playing for Scotland and for the British and Irish Lions.
To get to New Zealand in June and to see the red jersey hanging in front of me and realising that you’re about to put it on for the first time. Most players will never have that experience. Wow, when I think back even now, that really was an incredible experience. One I’ll never forget.
And there’s plenty more to come.
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